Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Mystery Is in the History

Several months ago in this space, I was saddened to report that New Avengers star Gareth Hunt had passed away at the age of 65. In the course of writing briefly about Hunt’s career, I came across a reference to a movie the actor worked on near the end of his life. That film, called The Riddle, was a mystery and a thriller that sounded like it would be just the thing for Rap Sheet readers. As summed up by the International Movie Database:
A journalist investigates a series of murders that follows the discovery of an unpublished novel by Charles Dickens in the cellar of an old Thames-side pub. Gradually, he becomes obsessed with unraveling a century-old murder in the pages of the manuscript. Only when he has done so, with the help of a mysterious beach-combing tramp who stalks the Thames foreshore, is he able to solve the modern murders.
After the Hunt piece ran, I was contacted by Brendan Foley, the up-and-coming British writer/director/producer responsible for bringing The Riddle to the screen. Would I, Foley wanted to know, be interested in screening The Riddle with an eye to reviewing the film?

I said I would, and I have, though in the meantime, The Riddle has been gaining steam on its own, having been screened at the Berlin Film Market and at Cannes.

The Riddle would be worth talking about even if it wasn’t quite this good. For starters, the casting is great. Vinnie Jones (whom Foley has worked with on several projects, including Johnny Was and the upcoming Bog Body) stars as the journalist, Mike Sullivan. Derek Jacobi is enjoyable in a dual role: He’s Charles Dickens in historical sequences and a tramp in modern day. Julie Cox is good in her own dual role as Mike’s police contact and love interest. Vanessa Redgrave is pure nasty as a greedy publisher. The cast also includes Jason Flemyng, P.H. Moriarty, Vera Day, Mark Asante, Gareth Hunt (of course), and Long Bob.

The film itself puts one in mind of the high-paced high-jinks of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels combined with more than a whisper of the type of questions asked by movies such as The Sixth Sense.

The Riddle is the whole package: a mystery thriller that’s smart, engaging, and keeps you guessing until the end credits roll.

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